Yesterday I was talking to a gentleman and he casually asked if my hair was ‘mine’ or if it was a weave. My default reaction (sadly) was that I was flattered. I personally didn’t think my hair had the length to be considered fake — although it is quite thick. However later on when thinking back to it, the questioned bothered me. Were White women every casually asked if their hair is ‘theirs’ or not?
I knew what I was getting into when I locced my hair. I had been down this road before and it is fair to say that at this point in my life, I’ve had natural hair on my head for more years than I’ve had processed hair on my head. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been, or even continue to be insecure about the natural, God-given state of my hair. I mean, I’ve come very far. And even though I rarely re-twist my locs to get my edges and new growth tucked away to give this illusion that I have these silky, slick roots going on….I do fantasize about how sexy I would look if I did have that going on.
So when I heard about the Olympic committee (or whoever) having a problem with swimming caps for natural hair, I was incredibly annoyed. Just listen to this:
You basically have non-Black people policing our hair….again. I realize that a large part of the world will see this as a minor issue; and just fail to see what the big deal is. But for Black women and even men, it is a HUGE deal. We get the constant message that they way that our hair grows in naturally is unacceptable. And it needs to be altered significantly in order to be acceptable. And this happens all of the time. I actually read a comment written by a White woman who really thought that she was being helpful by saying on a comment thread that employers have the right to put into place dress codes and appearance standards that prohibit ‘offensive’ styles. When pressed about why she thought that natural Black hair was offensive, she just said that it was unkempt; and defended this by saying the well-groomed White women also do a lot of styling and processing to their hair. I mean the point was completely lost on her that if a White woman or man were to take a shower, do nothing but comb their hair, and walk outside — no one is batting an eye. They sure aren’t going to think that said person’s appearance is offensive (perhaps not the most becoming….but not ‘offensive’).
The Crown Act
The Crown Act is proposed legislation that prevents race-based hair discrimination. As of today, it has only been passed in 10 states and a handful of cities. Unfortunately Pennsylvania is not one of them (although both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia passed legislation on a city-wide level).
Of course having laws in place is just the very first step. Regardless of what laws are on the books, it is very tough to sit across the table from a hiring manager who is not Black; and be confident that your natural hair is seen by them as being ‘professional’ and in line with their corporate culture.
But it seems to be that the final frontier of all of this might be in sports. Keep in mind that just two years ago, a high school wrestler was forced to cut off his hair to participate in a match. And then there have been a slew of microagressions regarding Black women and their hair, like Don Imus referring to the Rutgers basketball team as ‘nappy-headed hos‘ and constant criticism of Gabby Douglas’ unkempt edges. All of these women are incredible athletes – something that their hair has no impact on. And yet, it comes up time and time again in discussion; usually as an object of criticism or an issue to be addressed.
Black is beautiful and Black hair is included in that. The world may try to hold us back because of our hair. It may be working for the time being — but you will not be able to hold us back forever. We will come to embrace, be proud, and celebrate our God-given beauty again.